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COVID-19: Hastings Racecourse averts disaster, set to race in 2020

Two months after horses returned to the barns at Hastings Racecourse in the hopes for a 2020 racing season, action will begin in earnest next week.

Great Canadian Gaming, the operators of the venerable East Vancouver institution, announced Tuesday that the first races of the 2020 meet will take place on July 6.

Horse owner Glen Todd of North American Thoroughbred Horse Co. said he’s delighted the local track will see action this year.

“Great news,” he said. “It would have been a total disaster if we hadn’t been able to run this year, possibly the end of horse racing in B.C. if we hadn’t been able to race.”

“Today’s a good day. We’re going to be able to run.”

Todd has 41 horses at Hastings — his off-season stables are at a farm in Surrey and he also owns an operation in Kentucky — and employs two dozen people during racing season.

He admitted there were moments over the past three-plus months when he had doubts whether there would be a 2020 meet, but gave major credit to the Hastings community and to Great Canadian for being vigilant against the threat of COVID-19.

“They were anxious for quite a while — you’ve really got to thank the owners here, they’ve hung in there since the first of February till what will be the first of July, kept a lot of people working, they’ve hung in there,” Todd said. There are many small owners at Hastings, not just well-heeled ones like Todd.

“They deserve a lot of credit. The horse community has stuck together really well and we’ll make it. It’s a big community on the back stretch, people stick together like glue. I can’t give them enough credit, it’s spectacular,” he said. “All the trainers and the grooms, they’ve worked hard back there, wearing masks, social distancing and all that so we can run.”

The facility will be closed to the public. The only people allowed into the facility are directly related to racing and they will continue to follow health and safety protocols, Great Canadian said in a media release.

Fans and bettors wishing to watch the races will be able to do so through the industry’s simulcast networks as well as .

In all, Hastings plans to race 25 times this year, twice per week on average. Race days will generally be Mondays and Tuesdays, though the week of B.C. Day will see racing pushed back a day to Tuesday and Wednesday, while the week following Labour Day will see a single race day, on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Racing will start every day at 1:15 p.m.

There is a single Saturday scheduled, Sept. 5, the same day as the rescheduled Kentucky Derby.

The season was originally scheduled to start on April 26, but was suspended before it even got off the ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The season was originally scheduled to run through Oct. 18, but will finish Sept. 28 instead.

“It’s a short meet, not a lot of opportunities, but we’re running,” Todd said.


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